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Any counsel on dealing with the extreme variability of herbal effectiveness?

 
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Hi all.    I am struggling with the grand experiment.    It seems that so much of herbal medicine is guess work, and a continuous experiment with limited continuity of success. It works often only because I believe it works.       Then I find something that seems to be effective, then the herbal source is only  10 %   as concentrated as the previous stuff, and therefore not effective.     A recent experience with Habanero peppers may best explain some of the variability of products.   Seed from one pepper, planted in two gardens in the same general location.   Garden A produced peppers with such heat as to burn your face off, tears in the eyes, burning lips and nostrils, with a small nibble.  Garden B   the peppers could be picked off the plant and eaten whole ,almost as mild as a bell pepper.   If the heat, or capsaicin is the "medicine"  I certainly want the Garden A peppers.  If I have tried the B peppers two or three times, I deem it a failure.  If I listen to the claims of sellers, of course they are all effective.  So, how long do I continue to test drive the claims of others?, and for how many different ailments, pain, inflammation, colds, runny nose, itchiness etc. etc.   Then , how do I measure the quality of product when none has been tested.   So I get four different herbal medicines rom a trusted friend.  but it was ineffective because I has no colds last year and the medicine was too old by the time I needed it.   And I'm not interested in this being my life's work, consuming all my time and resources to find out the correct formula.    The thing is, I really would like to have a few trusted effective remedies on the shelf.  ,  without the myriad excuses of why it didn't work.......OK   my whining is complete for now,  thanks for the ear    k  
 
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You are essentially describing the driving force behind modern evidence based medicine. Herbal concoctions, by the very nature of how plants work (growth conditions, genetics, stress levels etc...) have wildly variable concentrations of active ingredients. Most of the early history of the pharmaceutical industry revolved around methods to accurately and consistently produce remedies of consistent dosages.  Frequently the original source was the same plant as the herbal medicine, but the medicinal compounds were extracted, isolated, purified and dispensed in a controlled way. This careful control of dosage saves lives, yet that message seems to have been lost on many who want to use herbal medicines.

It is worth remembering that most medicinal compounds are poisons - the difference between a compound that does nothing, has a medicinal effect, and kills you is frequently just the dose.

"Big Pharma" gets a bad rep these days, but the essential ideas at the core of evidence based medicine are sound and incredibly valuable.
 
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